by Kathryn Herndon, ATC's education and outreach coordinator

Raising the next generation of Trail stewards

September 2, 2015

It’s estimated that children today spend about half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago, instead devoting an average of 5 to 7 hours a day staring at a TV, computer, or other screens. These statistics raise an interesting (and scary!) question: Will the next generation care enough about the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) to protect their national treasure?

Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum famously said:

In the end we will conserve only what we love.

We will love only what we understand.

We will understand only what we are taught.

For the children of today to become tomorrow’s hikers, trail maintainers, stewards and guardians of the A.T., someone has to introduce them to the Trail. And that’s exactly what we’re hoping to accomplish through our Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) program, which is a unique professional development opportunity for K-12 teachers who want to connect their students with the natural environment and their community. What’s neat about this program is that it uses the A.T. as a living classroom—resulting in a memorable curriculum that students will remember for the rest of their lives.

So—how does this work, exactly? Through a cumulative workshop series led by national experts in Place Based Service Learning, each teacher will create an experiential learning curriculum based on the state or Common Core standards of learning for their discipline. Each hands-on curriculum integrates the study of A.T. resources in the local community, and is supported by strong teacher and student networks from Georgia to Maine. To see examples of what TTEC teachers are doing, visit the TTEC blog or browse the database of TTEC curricula.

If you know a teacher who loves the outdoors, we’re currently looking for a few outstanding educators in the 14 Trail states for this year’s TTEC program. Download the application here, and keep in mind that the deadline to apply is March 15.

From urban to rural, elementary to high school, and math and science to English, history, art, and physical education, teachers of all stripes are discovering the power of the Trail to engage and educate their students and invigorate their teaching practice. Please help connect students and communities with the A.T. by sharing this opportunity with a teacher!

TTEC is a program of the ATC in partnership with the National Park Service. To learn more, watch this video to find out what teachers are saying about the TTEC workshop series.